Post Production

iMovie adds 4K UHD & the often hazardous ±60 fps distribution

Apple just followed Adobe’s Premiere Elements 14 by adding support for 4K UHD and more to iMovie 10.1 (Mac), but with caveats.

iMovie 10 1 English

A few weeks after adding 4K UHD to iMovie for iOS 9 (and Adobe’s adding it to its Premiere Elements 14, link ahead), Apple has now added 4K Ultra HD project capabilities to the free and just updated iMovie 10.1 for Mac. Apple added a few other features to this version, including ±60 fps sharing. Although Apple included a caveat regarding 4K sharing, it neglected to include one about the ±60 fps distribution, which is much more hazardous than 4K. Details ahead, including how to start editing on iOS, and use iMovie (Mac) as a bridge to bring that same partially-edited project to Final Cut Pro X.

Link to Premiere Elements 14 article

Premiere Elements 14 UHD

Here is a link to my Adobe Premiere Elements 14 offers initial 4K UHD support of September 25, 2015, which is illustrated above.

New in iMovie 10.1

  • Create and share movies at 4K Ultra HD resolution (3840 x 2160) on compatible Mac computers (See Apple’s own caveat ahead.)
  • Create and share movies with 1080p HD video at ±60 frames per second (See my caveat ahead.)
  • Import movies and trailers from iMovie for iOS (version 2.2 and later), so you can start editing on an iOS device and finish on your Mac (and —if desired— then send that project from iMovie 10.1 on your Mac to FCP X, as covered here)
  • Redesigned Media view lets you see more of your library while browsing videos and photos
  • Projects view makes it easier to find and open your movies and trailers • Tabs in the Browser give you faster access to titles, backgrounds, transitions, and music while editing a movie • Option to hide Browser while editing a movie
  • 10 additional video filters from iMovie for iOS
  • View pixel-for-pixel 4K video while editing a movie on iMac with Retina 5K display

Apple’s caveat about 4K distribution:

  1. 4K export requires a Mac from 2011 or later with at least 4 GB RAM.
  2. Full-resolution 4K playback is supported on iMac with Retina display and Mac Pro (2013 or later) when connected to a 4K display.

My caveat about ±60 fps distribution:

As I have covered in many previous articles, if you don’t produce video for a 720p sports channel, you should probably produce and distribute videos that are below 30 fps, meaning 23.976, 24, 25, or 29.97. The reason to avoid distributing anything higher is that most mobile devices will not play more than those under 30 frames per second. (Remember that exact 30.000 fps has not been a standard since the US colorized the monochrome system in 1953.)

iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus

To clarify, I am not talking about how many frames per second the wonderful camera in the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus (or any other camera) can shoot (for later playback as slow motion): I’m talking about how many frames per second they can play back on their internal screen.

The moral of the story

The moral of the story is that if we are not producing for a 720p sports channel, we should make all of our target framerates for our projects or timelines to be under 30p: 23.976, 24, 25 or 29.97. If you mainly shoot and distribute in a PAL or ex-PAL region, then 25p makes sense as your delivery target. If you mainly shoot and distribute in an NTSC or ex-NTSC region, then 23.976p or 29.97p makes sense. If you plan to go to filmout or DCI, then exact 24 makes sense. If your camera can shoot high framerate, use the higher framerate for later use in slow motion at one of those delivery framerates, and set your shutter speed in the camera for best results at that desired delivery framerate, not the original one you shot at high framerate. For example, regardless of your high framerate when shooting, if you are going to deliver 25p, then use 1/50 as your starting point in the shutter. If you are going to deliver 23.976p or exact 24p, then use 1/48 (or the closest available in your camera), and if you are going to deliver 29.97p, use 1/60 as your starting shutter speed.

See the related article iPhone 6s: One more reason to distribute video under 30 fps.

Remember that spatial resolution (i.e. 4K Ultra HD and 1080p) is very scalable for different distribution sizes, but temporal resolution (framerate) is not.

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Born in Connecticut, United States, Allan Tépper is an award-winning broadcaster & podcaster, bilingual consultant, multi-title author, tech journalist, translator, and language activist who has been working with professional video since the eighties. Since 1994,…